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Riverhead school board discuss plan to update district’s curriculum

Since last year, when six of the seven schools in the Riverhead Central School District were designated focus schools, the administration has been working to update the district’s curriculum.

The district, which also received a focus designation, received $350,000 in funding from the state, which will be used in three ways.

The first is through broadening after-school enrichment and remediation opportunities, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Christine Tona said during a presentation at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

“They are activities based in education,” she said. “There’s also, for kids that need additional help in math or reading, there’s teachers that take groups of kids for those. We’ve established a drama [club] at Pulaski. There’s a garden club at Roanoke. So all of the things they’re doing are rooted in education.”

Professional development opportunities were also offered to faculty members, and more support was created for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM.

Some of the STEM opportunities include rolling out new robotics clubs in all schools, participating in a free national lab partnership for grades 6 to 8 though Brookhaven National Laboratory and introducing coding classes and ozobots — robots that respond to color — to perform tasks at the elementary level.

Ms. Tona added that because of the focus designation, the state does come in and evaluate the schools. This year they have already reviewed the high school and are slated to do the same at Pulaski Street School and possibly Riley Avenue. Schools that aren’t visited this year will be required to conduct a self-reflection and complete a document to submit to the state education department.

In addition to responding to focus district requirements, the district has rolled out its own initiatives over the past two school years. These include Parent University, a national community collaborative to help parents become full partners in their children’s education; a Council for Equality and Excellence; and a review of data from the English as a New Language program to better align classroom material to students’ skills.

Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said the district has 5,471 enrolled students, 47.5 percent of whom are Hispanic, making it the largest demographic in the district. In addition, 14 percent of the district’s students are in special education, 53 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 27 percent are English language learners, she said.

Ms. Tona also announced that the district hopes to create a committee to discuss the possibility of removing Regents scores when calculating final grades for middle and high school students.

That change was suggested by numerous community members, including Kerry McKillop of Calverton, who spoke at the previous meeting about their desire to remove the Regents because they are graded on a scale format rather than a percentage format, as teacher-created assessments are.

“I suggest there be as many parents involved as there are administrators, teachers and board members,” Ms. McKillop said. “It’s an important issue and we really need to hear the variety of voices.”

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